When you become a parent, your chest is sliced open and your heart laid bare. You don't feel it at first because you are so smitten with this beautiful new person who has entered your life. You kiss the little toes. You smell their essence. You marvel at every coo, blink, word, movement. You are so enamored, you forget that this deep love you have for your children comes with a dark side: the pain you feel when they are pained. You don't notice your heart is on the cusp of being put through the ringer. It will be. And it is. Over and over again.
But you survive. You tape it back together. Breathe deeply. Let it heal a little bit before the next crisis or medical diagnosis or letdown or disappointment. You feel in the recesses of your mind that it would not hurt so much if you did not love so much. But the love, oh the love, is so precious you wouldn't give it up for anything.
This past week has been the kind of week where my heart has felt beaten and bruised. Midnight tears and morning worries and the wish that it would all go away. My sweet Lily. My precious Lily is facing what feels insurmountable. We're ok. It's not an emergency. I won't go into details here--which means you're all imagining worst case scenarios of multiple things (don't), but I want to respect her privacy--but it is the kind of thing you hope happens to someone else so that you can keep on living your happy little life. Instead, we are the ones sweeping up the pieces of our hearts. She will be fine. She has to be fine. But right now it is grueling.
Have you ever wanted to quit? To say, "I don't want any more of this pain." Discomfort, sure. Inconvenience, no problem. I got all that and a bag of chips during the get-them-sleeping-through-the-night era. But watching your child hurt? No. I'm the first to admit that I did not sign up for this. Which sounds so weak. But it's honest. I'll say it again. I did not sign up for this. I did not have this in my plans. There was no instruction manual to prepare me. To prepare my heart for the pain of raising children. To prepare myself for a road I don't want to travel.
Yesterday David's high school hosted a statewide cross country meet. It was spectacular. The pageantry and the speed and the teams and the hype and the noise and the cheering. There were 38 teams, all racing their very best. The runners were fluid and practiced and determined and strong. We were watching at a spot about halfway through the course, and long after the boys had finished--right before the starting gun went off for the girls--came a boy all by himself. He was vastly overweight. He was dead last. He was so slow that he shuffled. He had absolutely no reason to be out there except to try. He was not running for the fun of it, because he was stared at, gawked at, and laughed at. He was so far behind he was completely alone, with no one to direct him through the course. He knew most of the girls would finish before him.
And yet he ran.
I watched him the way a mom watches their child take their first steps. I was so proud of him. I wanted to run beside him and hug him. I wanted to tell him that he was the best kid out there. I wanted him to know I had his back and that I thought that if he could do this... in front of thousands of people... he could do anything. He did not give up. I clapped for him. I yelled at him to not give up. I watched him huff past me, carrying not only his physical weight but the weight of everyone's eyes following his painful, slow trudge through the course. He ran because he knew, deep down, he could finish. He did the best he could.
He will never know how much he inspired me. I feel like I'm dead last, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. But what are my options? To give up? I don't care that people see me struggling, or that I'm dead last, or that the road I'm on is not pretty. Despite the pain in my heart, I love my child.
And I will not give up.